Facing Shadow

quote-not-everything-that-is-faced-can-be-changed-but-nothing-can-be-changed-until-it-is-faced-james-a-baldwin-34-77-31

Energy workers in the USA have had a rougher week than normal. If you are one, then this is not news to you. Whether you believe in voting or not, the energy that has been whipped up and let fly over the last year has been overwhelming at times. Many progressive souls, not just energy workers, have been struggling since the US election to make sense of what just happened.

I get the argument that both candidates were flawed. I do not buy the idea that this made them equivalent. Almost half the country voted for someone whose stump speeches and rallies were peppered with blatant misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and self-aggrandizement. Just WOW.

After the results came in, I heard people try to comfort themselves with statements like, “They got through 8 years of Obama; we can get through 4 years of Trump.” I believe that, too, is a false equivalence — as comforting as it may be to some. White, Christian, straight, middle-class or better, and male? You will probably be okay, as long as you keep low and don’t anger the powers that will soon be in office. (They have shown a tendency to hold grudges.) However, the more of those descriptors that do not apply to you, the greater the risk.

That isn’t hyperbole. It is a projection based on past behavior. It is not just about what laws they hope to enact, either. One of the things our leaders do for us is to set the tone for what constitutes acceptable behavior. The bar was set pretty high with the Obamas, and we did not live up to it. However you felt about his policies, President Obama was rather consistent in appealing to our better nature. That will no longer be the case.

The new President has shown a penchant for encouraging fear, then letting people know that he is “the only one” who can make it better. His own history of bigotry has already let loose behavior that we haven’t seen in a long time. The skinhead, KKK, and Neo-Nazi groups in the USA have always been there, but they have been mostly silent for decades. That all changed with a blatantly racist candidate going mainstream. The members of these groups are emboldened with the idea that their time has come.

In that sense, a Trump presidency has forced us to face ourselves, our shadow. We, as a nation, have refused over and over again to deal with the bigotry that lies at the heart of the concept of our American version of “exceptionalism.” It is a bitter pill to swallow, but perhaps a bit of purpose can be extracted from it? As James Baldwin told us, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” We must face this in order to heal it. We have to look our collective bigotry in the eye and find the path to heal that fear of the other that is at its root.

This is not going to be easy. It will be the equivalent of cleaning up after a violent spring snow storm.

“What?!?” I hear you ask.

As we progress through the seasons, everyone knows that the cold weather doesn’t begin on the first day of winter. It generally starts getting unpleasant while we are still in autumn! As the first day of spring comes around, it doesn’t mean that the warm sun and gentle breezes automatically become the forecast for all days ahead. Just as we have that last gasp of summer in the fall, we always have a few spring snowstorms. And they are often quite painful! Things just starting to grow, bloom, or leaf up get killed off or damaged by the heavy, wet snow and colder temperatures. It doesn’t last, but it sure can make a mess of things. We mourn the losses we suffer, but we also take a small measure of comfort from the fact that a storm like that may delay the onset of the warm growing season, but it can’t prevent it.

In a similar way, the evolution of our planet takes place across cycles, and we are coming to the end of one “season,” and the beginning of another. As this plays out, observers note that we are in the process of an energetic shift. Across the entire planet, people are working to raise the earth’s collective vibration. As energy workers doing this work, it is easy to forget that the old paradigm is not just going to dissolve in front of our eyes because we want it gone. Like the seasons, it will hold on as long as it can. It will sputter. It will rage.  It doesn’t care that spring is coming. Winter is its thing. It’s what it knows. There is always overlap of the weather patterns. Always. Seasons progress along a gradient, not clearly delineated lines.

The old cultural paradigm is like winter seeing the advent of spring. The warmth of agape (brotherly love) melts the barriers between us and that is not very winter-like. Scary. Unity is perceived as a threat to individuality. Leaving hibernation means waking up and doing the work of spring. That doesn’t sound like fun either. Spring is about awakening, growth, and change – while winter is about going within and shoring up our strengths. They simply can’t fully coexist.

So, what now?

If the analogy holds true, the first thing is to try to contain the damage while the snow is still falling. When we get a spring storm in Wisconsin or in my home state of New Hampshire, I try to cover my tender plants, shovel walkways, put sand on the icy walk. We need to find ways of doing that kind of thing for each other. If you are unsure of what to do, try to look at the groups out there doing the work of the Shift. These will be anti-racism groups, lightworker groups, progressive churches, mosques, and synagogues, healers, and earth protectors, to name a few.  Make sure they have what they need to be safe. Talk to them. Ask. Then, assess what you feel you can do, and offer it.

Once that is done, it will be time to assess the damage and start to make plans for fixing what we can. We aren’t there yet, though. The storm is still raging, and we don’t yet know how much snow and ice will fall. I have been thinking on how I will approach these next steps, and I will reach out to some groups as well. But, I will also be trying to get into as strong a place as I can. I will be practicing Ho ‘Oponopono to heal myself and my worldview. I will practice metta meditation to pour love out where it can be absorbed. I will continue the work of anchoring light from the Akasha to the Earth. I will try to be even more mindful as I walk through my day, bringing that intention to the events around me. As I think of other things I can do, I will do them.

Many of these things are simply working on myself and my own shadow, because I truly believe that we ARE one, and what is shadow out there in the world is also reflected in me, or is a reflection of what is in me. I can’t help the world heal if I am not willing to let a “new and right spirit” grow within my own self (Psalm 51:10).

Namaste, beloveds.

“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

 ― Ramana Maharshi

Circle of Healing

A circle is a symbol of wholeness. It doesn’t really have a beginning or an end, but is an entity unto itself. I believe that this is one of the primary reasons that groups who come together for healing of any type (physical, emotional, spiritual) are often called “healing circles.” 

Many years ago, I was aching for something but I didn’t know what. I got a nudge to search the phrase, “healing circle.” I had never heard of this before, but that kind of nudge thing often happens to me, and I try to listen when it does. So, I pulled up my Internet search friend, Google, and that was how I got started on the road to learn drumming and shamanic practice.

What is a healing circle?

A healing circle is a group of people who come together regularly for the express intent of healing. It might be to help each other heal, or it might be to send healing thoughts, prayers, or energy to select recipients. It operates off the concept that when we gather together for a single intent, the effect is amplified more than it would be if the same people did the same thing on their own. The intention of linking together causes the multiplier effect.

This is not a religious thing, but many faiths include the concept. The Bible may have a direction of “Where two or more are gathered in My name [….]” (Matthew 18:20), but Native American peoples have gathered for millenia in circles of healing. The concept is not unknown in Muslim and Hindi faiths as well. The circle as healer is one of the archetypes found in Jungian psychology (see his work on Mandelas). 

Is there a circle near me?

Circles of varying types are everywhere. Places of worship often organize prayer circles. If you have many energy workers in your area, you will likely be able to find Reiki circle meetups. Shamanic practitioners often have drum circles. Whatever your modality, the opportunities are probably there, sitting just out of sight. I suggest you do a search on the name of the place you live and the phrase, “healing circle.” You may be surprised by what you see!

If you don’t have anything nearby, or you are not open to physical meetups, don’t forget to check the virtual realm. At the very least, there is the World Peace Meditation series organized by Reiki.org. You don’t even have to tell them you plan on joining in. Just do it!

The circles where I have participated are a little more structured. There is a commitment to attend and participate. This is because we lean on each other, share with each other, hold space for each other. Over time, we become our own tribe family. I love that.

If this interests you, find or make a circle in your area. Let the healing begin!

Namaste!

Equality Not Uniformity

1413507032-e8aacce9-8820

Today is Blog Action Day. This is the day when all of us blog writers attack a single subject from the various perspectives of our blog themes. This year, the topic is inequality. Generally, we equate inequality with injustice, lack of fairness, and discrimination. I would like to step back for a moment and see if I can come at this sidewise.

I was deeply impacted as a teenager by a short story that Kurt Vonnegut wrote, entitled Harrison Bergeron. To this day, I think of this story whenever I contemplate what makes us equal – or not. Let me share the opening paragraph to give you an idea:

The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

The plot revolves around two dancers who are forced to dance with weights attached to their bodies, so that they will not over-excel at their craft and, in so doing, they remain equal to others who do not have their gift. Their story is a powerful metaphor for any system where we blindly insist that equality requires uniformity. The story always serves to remind me that – before we talk about being equal – we need a context.

As someone prone to social activism, I recognize that what I want in my life is very different from the scenario detailed in this story. I actually love that we are all so different. I can not imagine that I would ever want to raise myself up by pulling someone else down. I know people who do seek this kind of equality. They are of the “if I can’t have it, you shouldn’t be able to have it either” variety. These people are in a constant competition, imagining that every benefit earned by one person should also be gifted to them. This is the “equality” that Kurt Vonnegut derided so successfully in his story.

However, there is another approach to equality. For example, I expect my unique set of skills to be appreciated and respected by those who share my life. I actively seek equality of opportunity, whether it be in education, job opportunity, access to healthcare, or even the opportunity to provide my family with healthy and safe food. I seek equality of pay, and equality of unbiased assessment in my work. I do believe that equal opportunity requires us to have a baseline safety net for all our citizens. Note that I do not believe that our current monetary system is one where work of equal value is ascribed equal income …. Another area where we need work.

The justice I seek is one of equality of consideration before courts of law. My concept of fairness means that my differences are valued, not condemned. Like the phrase usually attributed to Albert Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

These kinds of equality are worth working towards. It is not about the things I can’t do that you can. It is about the appreciation and respect I get for simply being myself. It is “Namaste.” The piece of the Divine that resides in me recognizes and acknowledges the piece of the Divine that resides in you. If we could live that one word, the kind of inequality I fight against would no longer exist.

My Braided Life

Triquetra

In this past year, I have been graced with a lot of insight into how my life works and how I can live a happier existence with a feeling of wholeness and joy surrounding my days. I have been so introverted during this process that I lost all desire to write anywhere but my journal and on a project I felt called to explore. A friend gently suggested that I put out here some of the insights I have gained … that they might be of interest to someone else and that she, for one, would like to read them.

So, here is my first exploration in this direction:

Rituals are like a checklist, ensuring all of me is being nourished.

I wake up in the morning at about 5 AM. I roll out of bed and find my way to my meditation space. 25 minutes later, I feel more awake, centered, and ready to journal for a quick 5 – 10 minutes. The dog and I then scoot out the door for a walk around the block where I make a point of connecting to my favorite trees in the neighborhood, often with me placing my hands on their bark and listening. As we make our rounds, I practice being aware of the energy grounding me to the earth and remaining mindful of each step as I walk it. I try to pay attention to where my awareness resides in my body, and I make sure to spend some time with my awareness settled in my nurturing 2d chakra space.

These morning rituals embody my perception of the three major strands within the braid of my life. In every life, the braid is present. One strand is the physical me, another is the mental me, and a third the spiritual me. One of the things I have learned over the course of this past year is that it is vitally important to “feed” each strand of the braid so that none is starved or engorged. If we want the braid of our life to be healthy, each strand has to receive our attention on a regular basis.

For myself, I appreciate the physical strand by getting outside and walking each day. I try to eat healthy foods and to be mindful as I eat. My spiritual strand is fed by my meditation practice and by my mindfulness exercises, as well as my tree connections. My mental self benefits from the journaling, the discipline that I impose on myself, and the work I do each day. Note that in each case, there are things I take in (such as food) and things I give or expend (such as exercise). I have come to understand that this give and take is very important. It is like breathing in and out, giving and taking, each with its own cycle. If you take in, you must find a way to release. Balance requires it.

There is more, of course. I try to include creative activities. I try to read each day, even if it is just for a few minutes. I am using an app on my phone to teach myself German. Everything we do embodies at least one strand of this braid. The key is to be aware of which pieces of ourselves we are exercising when we participate in a given activity. If we only do the intellectual, we are  feeding it to the detriment of our physical and spiritual selves, and we will eventually pay a price for that neglect. The same holds true if we feed the spiritual, but do not exercise or eat well … or if we take care of our bodies, but never exercise our minds or make time to listen for the voice of the Divine.

Sometimes, I envision more strands. Most of the time, it is just the three. It is the Celtic triquetra – the three-sided knot – that symbolizes so many trinities in our lives. I use it to remind me of the balance of mind-body-spirit.

Remembering

One of the ideas that has repeatedly been presenting itself to me over the course of the last several weeks is that, through the Akashic Field, we all have access to unlimited information. I have had a stranger tell me that I would remember a skill as a specialized kind of tone-based healer from a past life, and that I would not need to be taught. I have had a shamanic journey where I was given a ritual to aid in “downloading” information from the field. I was given access to a free ebook that was a novel about the Akashic Field, and touched upon this topic. I was signed up for a free seminar which I thought was about one topic, but which wound up going into this process of remembering instead. I joined a forum, where the current topic of discussion was … you guessed it. I described it to some friends recently as reminiscent of the moment in the story when someone in the street has a handful of pebbles which they keep tossing up to your window one at a time, interrupting you and catching your attention repeatedly until you open the window to find out what they want.

Generally, when things bunch up like this on a specific topic, I cry “Uncle!” and admit that the Universe is trying to get me to open that window to find out what it wants. In this particular case, the idea of remembering skills is both appealing and unnerving. I suspect most of you get the appealing part, but unnerving?  To put it bluntly, this lesson will mean moving out of sight of those comfortable shores that define my old way of thinking. Time for adventure!

I have been blinded by (outdated) science

“If I can’t see it, measure it, quantify it, or in some way analyze it, it must not be real.” This assumption was a large part of my personal background. At the same time, I believed in Spirit from the time I was small. I saw things and felt things that others couldn’t. At one point, I even believed and internalized the idea that, if others couldn’t see auras or watch future events in their dreams, then it must be that I am crazy, or plagued by demons, or something! So you see, I have always had an uneasy dance going on between my belief in the physical world and my conviction that there is more to it.

The analytical mind thinks in terms of the “old” accepted paradigm of the world. It insists that learning to do anything takes time. It further suggests that we experience time in a linear way. It presumes that each individual is just that – an individual. Recent quantum research has begun to question each of these assumptions, but that newer perspective has just begun to be absorbed into the general culture.

Categorizing and experiencing life by only 5 senses has led us to assume that some people are simply incapable of learning certain things, and some are gifted at those very same things. This is based on the idea that we are all individuals, each with an isolated brain which is the sole repository of our mind. We force ourselves to start from scratch whenever we learn anything new, and since no one has ever shown us any different, most of us assume that is the only way.

If we seriously consider this concept of remembering skills by pulling the information out of the Akashic Field, it throws much of our current understandings out the window. Think about it. If a person can tap into a “database” that includes all the skills learned by anyone, anywhere, and any when, that would fly in the face of current understandings about mind, psychology, how we learn, etc. If any skill you desire is one that you can become good at, simply by pulling the information from the Akashic Field, integrating it, and then using it … off you go as a competent or skilled practitioner. This would certainly change how we teach any skill, if “teaching” would even be the appropriate word at that point. Our skills would be limited only by the desire we have to accumulate them. For the most part, we would all have the same potential, even if we would remain unique expressions of that potential. This would change everything.

This idea makes me think of the character, Neo, in the blockbuster movie, “The Matrix.” If you have seen that movie, you probably remember the scene where he first downloads the skills to be an expert martial arts fighter. It takes him a few movie-minutes to integrate what he has learned, but he is soon experiencing expert practice sessions with his mentor, Morpheus. This is possible because of the Matrix, a repository for all kinds of information and the fabric of what most people in the movie believe is reality. In some ways, the movie’s “Matrix” is the equivalent of our “Akashic Field.”

Extending this downloading idea to our world would be possible only through Unity. For this to be real, Unity Consciousness must be real as well. This changes our perception of reality. Many of us have an intellectual belief that the world is “maya,” or a dream, or Plato’s shadow of reality. However, the ability to download skills would be a line drawn in the sand between intellectually believing this to be true, and living it.

Something gained. Something lost.

We have a strong tendency in our western culture to build an identity on the perceived value of the skills we have managed to master. This is an ego-driven desire, and prompts people to work hard to be seen as more valuable than others. Whether it be prestige or fame or money, we use these identities we have created as symbols of our value.

Our entire society has a foundation that includes the idea that some people know certain things, and others know different things. What would it mean for our world if anyone could do anything they were willing to take on? How can anyone say that it is more valuable to know X than it is to know Y if a person could learn either? Don’t we all know people who love to know something others don’t? Or people who think their value is not intrinsic, but is determined by their ability to sing, program, sell, calculate or paint? This ability to simply scoop data from the Field would seriously undermine the ego identity that is the core of how most people perceive themselves.

Let’s Shift Gears!

Having expressed all of this concern, what’s next? The old paradigm seems to want us constantly on the edge of fight or flight. It promotes hesitation about change, especially this kind of change. You know what I mean; the kind of change that modifies how we think and perceive reality. And that’s the point. On a global scale, the old mindset is dying and it knows it, so those who still believe in it are holding on to the past for dear life.

I am sure you have guessed that what we are talking about here is actually a core piece of what has become known as The Shift. In Unity, the pieces of perception are so entwined that it is never about changing our ideas or beliefs on a single concept, like how we learn a new skill. That one idea is connected to another over here, and a third over there … and before we know it, there is an entire web of reality that has shifted with the movement of a single core belief.

What do you think? Are you an experienced practitioner of the art of remembering? What kinds of things have you remembered this way?

Change your thoughts, change the world

Somehow, whether it be by genetics, environment, or a combination of the two, we all developed this idea that there is not enough to go around. If I want to make sure that I will have enough for next week or next year, I have to hoard everything I can get my hands on to ensure my survival. This is considered poverty or paucity thinking. We think and react as though we are on the very brink of destitution. Our very lives depend on our ability to hoard and protect the hoard we have collected.

The irony, of course, is that the more people hoard, the more it appears true that there is not enough. We can see that there is not enough. There are people starving (while food is rotting in refrigerators and warehouses around the world). There are people with no homes (while the foreclosed homes outnumber the homeless in the USA). There are people who have no money to even buy a bagel or cup of coffee (while billions of dollars, euros, rubles and pounds sit in banks doing nothing but collecting interest).

How we got to this point is a good question, but I think it would easily lead to recriminations and would trigger the self-defense mechanisms we have all honed to a fine skill. The potentially world-changing question is what shall we do, now that we are here? We have the technology, the intelligence and the networking ability to correct almost every basic problem (food, clothing, shelter) on the planet. What we lack is the will to do what needs doing to correct the imbalance.

Perhaps the most challenging of all is to deal with the fact that those who have more than they need must share with those who have nothing. That goes against the survival instincts of the “lizard brain” we each possess. Just the thought of giving away these keys to survival causes the grip to tighten. As long as we truly believe this is a dog-eat-dog world, our belief will influence how we react to the needs of others, and therefore we make it true.

It doesn’t have to be that way, of course. Have you ever participated in, or even just seen, a trust exercise called “lap sitting?” I have seen it at acting classes and at leadership seminars, and I have been fortunate enough to participate in it more than once.. It is the most amazing thing. Everyone stands a foot or so apart  in a circle, facing in the same direction. On cue, everyone carefully sits down. With no chair in sight, we are all able to comfortably sit on the knees of the person behind us. All it would take would be for one person to distrust the process and everyone would fall. Yet, it works.

Clarkson University students attempt to set a lap sitting record. Image from the Watertown Daily Times, Feb 5, 2010.

Take this mentality and imagine applying it to almost anything. If we would each be willing to be the lap for the person in front of us, we could all sit comfortably. It is more than just possible. We could all eat. We could all have clothing and shelter. Survival doesn’t have to be optional.

We would have to change how we think about ownership and community and social responsibility. Each one of us would have to be willing to integrate this change into our lives. This would reverberate through our culture and alter our economic paradigm, and change how we handle various situations. I honestly believe it would allow people to begin to heal the trust issues we all have with each other. We would learn to be there for each other. “Ubuntu: I am because we are.” This healing would ripple across the world. I am not suggesting this would create an utopia, as we humans would certainly find the next thing that needs our attention. We always do – it is part of our effort to strive to thrive. Even so, this would be a building block for a different world. You see, I believe that we are creating tomorrow with every action, thought and conviction we allow into our lives today. I also believe in the quote by Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If we don’t take that step, the journey has yet to begin.

Think on it … and let me know what your thoughts are. Can you imagine what we can do now to help make this happen? Or do you think I am crazy and this isn’t the way to go? If so, why? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Letting Go

books

Not being catholic, I have somewhat of an outsider’s view of the Lenten season. Mind you, Catholics aren’t the only ones who celebrate Lent, but they are certainly the most visible – especially on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.

From my experience, Lent is usually honored by giving up something that you enjoy. The thought has been explained to me as as a sacrifice to echo the sacrifice of Christ, though I have recently read of other interpretations. The idea is to recognize how challenging it is to give up that one small thing (even if it is usually to our own benefit in some way), and to therefore appreciate how great a sacrifice was done on our behalf.

I was thinking about this idea of sacrifice over the last few days, since I often choose Lent as the perfect time to give up something. After all, there is a lot of support out there for letting go at this one time of the year. Take advantage of the communal energy! When I participate in this process, I like to look at it as giving up something so I can see what kind of hold that thing has over my life and evaluate whether I am willing for that hold to continue.

Frankly, my concept of Lent has changed over time. It used to be more in alignment with sacrifice, but this year, I am seeing things a bit differently. I realize that the sentiment behind “sacrifice” is that it should be something you enjoy or want to continue doing, so that giving it up is in some way unpleasant. What I am realizing is that giving things up doesn’t have to be unpleasant to be beneficial. My spiritual life and my physical life can both see benefits if I do this right.

I recently read some comments from a Buddhist monk who explained that monks were only allowed to own 8 things, and those 8 things were actually predefined. This idea coinciding with the timing of Lent made me think of the possibility of giving up ownership, or at least reducing my ownership footprint. I read a new slogan somewhere on the web: “Don’t declutter. De-own.” Sounds scary … and that means it is powerful.

I certainly own a lot more than 8 things. Honestly, I own a lot more than the 100 Things that another blogger suggested. I grew up in a poor household and it was made very clear to me at a very young age that how much stuff a person owned was a measure to compare oneself against. Many family members were hoarders, though I doubt very much that any of them would admit it. When I moved in with my current partner, I think I was well on my way to becoming a hoarder, myself. She, however, is not a hoarder. In some parts of her life, she is downright minimalist. Needless to say, my collection of stuff drove her nuts!

We broke up for a while due, in part, to this very issue. During that time, I came to realize that I really identified with my stuff. When she didn’t want things out where it was visible to guests, I felt like she didn’t want me to be visible. When she would gently suggest downsizing some of my collection, I felt she was wanting to downsize or diminish me! It sounds crazy, I know. From what I can tell though, this is very much how hoarders feel. I now call this syndrome being “stuff sick.” The love I felt for her forced me to face this about myself, and I truly believe she pulled me back from the brink of becoming a hoarder.

Over the years, I have learned to let go, to hold on less and less. She taught me that memories and emotions might be triggered by seeing certain things, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them. If the object serves no practical purpose, we can take a picture of the thing and let the actual object go. It is a process and I am still not as good at it as she is, but I keep improving.

Which brings me to the idea of Lent 2013.

My idea for this year goes beyond sacrifice into the value of reviewing what defines me. I am not willing to be defined by these things I enjoy. I can give them up and still be me. So, I have decided to give up ownership of one thing each day. At the end of the month, these things will go to Goodwill / Savers. Instead of giving up chocolate or sweets or some other decadence I enjoy, I am going to commit to releasing one item for each of the 40 days. My rules to myself are that I can’t just give up a pair of shoes and count it for 2 days, nor would a box of office supplies count for any more than a single day’s gifting. It can’t be something I simply don’t care about either. To be a valid sign of my healthier attitude toward the things in my possession, I am committing to giving away things I am holding onto “just in case.” If you know anyone with hoarder instincts, this is tough! 20 years in the computer industry simply reinforced that tendency in me, so I am sure this will be a challenge.

Day 1 is going to be a handful of books that I always meant to read, but haven’t. These particular books have been in my “to-read” pile for more than 3 years. I love books and letting them go is never easy for me. Sigh. Time to let them go.

Whew! One day down!

Are you taking advantage of this letting go energy? What has Spirit prompted you to let go of?

What if …

 

It seems that everywhere I look online, there is a running discourse about the shooting in Connecticut. The outrage is real, widespread and very deeply felt. This bodes well for change.

As I was thinking on this, though, the famous quote from Gandhi about being the change we want to see came to mind. It reminds me that you can’t legislate morality. That doesn’t mean the laws shouldn’t change. It means that the level of behavioral change impacted by laws and regulations doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Another way of stating it is that we may be able to contain some of the behavior, but the impetus to violent reactions remains.

That problem is the violence in our own hearts and souls. As long as we react with violent thoughts, even if we control them, the seed of violence will remain with us as a people and as a culture. We each have varying levels of success at controlling it, but its very existence raises the question of how do we truly heal a society that is based on violent thought? I don’t have answers, but I do have questions and that is perhaps a valid starting point.

I wonder if this is related to the competition we each have nurtured in our hearts since we were small? We have this poverty / paucity mindset that insists that everything, but EVERYTHING, is in limited supply. If I have it then you can’t have it. If you have it, then I can’t. This mindset encourages people to defend what little they have from someone who might deprive them of it, or to attempt to take from someone that which they think they need to survive.

The more I think on this, the more I believe that, at a very deep level, the trigger for violent thoughts or behavior seems to be rooted in the idea that the other has something that I need to survive or even just to be happy. When I am content in this moment, not worrying about what I don’t have, I can feel no urge to become aggressive. When the present moment is sufficient for me, there is nothing I need to take from another.

What if people woke up to the moment of power, that is to say this very moment? I often hear talk of awakening in vague and idealistic terms, but what would actually happen? How would things change if people suddenly started living in the now, owning their own baggage, and making decisions based on just that? I am not talking utopia, but reality. What would change? I am thinking that the scope would be so large, we can’t even imagine it in its entirety.

Mindful Shopping

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user AMagill – Use of image does not constitute endorsement by the artist.

We are about to hit the biggest shopping season of the year, at least in the USA. This year,  with all the changes that have been (and are still!) occurring in my life, I feel prompted to ask myself to clarify what I value. I have always loved giving gifts and looking for something the recipient will truly appreciate, so I am seeing that this new perspective of mine simply adds another layer to my personal shopping filter.

It is easy to say that I value people over things, intention over object, and ethics over greed. The real question is whether or not I live it out. No matter what words I formulate in my mind or out loud, the real test is in what I do. I am always fond of saying that our lives are much like riding a bicycle in that we always wind up aiming for whatever we are looking at. So, what my heart believes directs the course of my actions as surely as the mythical siren song lured sailors to places their logical minds did not want to go.

Being the change …

We talk about change and how we want the economy to be less greed-driven, less competition based, more empathy-driven, more service based. I suddenly realized that the idea of being the change I want to see applies to everything, even this. If I want to be part of the solution in terms of changing what drives the economy, then I need to be really clear on what drives me!

How do I decide where I am going to shop? Is it just about prices? Getting the most for your money isn’t a bad thing, but if that is the only criteria I were to use to determine where I shop, wouldn’t that be a greed-driven decision? Do I really need to give multiple gifts, or expensive ones to those I love, for them to know how much I care?

Of course not. Consciously, I know this.

I still hesitate, so I dig a little deeper. I realize that there is a part of me that knows my idealism isn’t shared (yet!) by all those I love. So, I am concerned about how to live out this philosophy of mine. I can make things. I can offer skills. I reflect on the idea that I want to give them things they will appreciate, and my concern is for those who still seem caught up in the consumerism of the old paradigm. How do I find the right gift for them, and still remain true to this shift within me?

At some point, even if it is just for materials, I will need to go out and purchase some things.

In a capitalist society, your money is your sphere of influence

An awful lot of businesses have recently had their leadership say and do things with which I disagree strongly. They have the right to freedom of speech, and I would never want to take that away from them. On the other hand, I too have freedoms. If they are going to do things I perceive to be against my personal ethics, I don’t have to support them and their business by shopping there. This concept of the ethical shopper is one that I have seen popping up all over the place.

Thanks to various boycott movements, consumers are discovering how powerful their shopping habits truly are. If a boycott can influence behavior, then I have the power to bestow my vote of confidence upon any business, simply by shopping there. Realizing this, and wanting to change how businesses are run, I know there are some behaviors I want to reward and others I don’t. Companies that treat their employees like more than just  a resource to be used and discarded need to be encouraged. Those that want to act ethically, do minimal damage to the environment, support their local communities and are responsive to the impacts their decisions make in the world – those businesses deserve my support. On the other hand, those who don’t do these things need to be sent to the time out corner. There are only two practical ways to express my disapproval: one is to write them a letter (and yes, I frequently do this), and the other is to simply refuse to give them any of my money.

Influencing change

This is how any of us can influence the ethics of capitalism. In retail, the people’s mandate is defined in profits. If a company is profitable, they think that we are OK with how they do business. We each have the power to influence that bottom line of profitability with every purchase we make. Frankly, as we awaken into our personal power I believe we will be seeing this trend continue to grow.

I am looking forward to this year’s gift giving, partly because I plan on being extra creative about it. I do admit, however, that trying to determine where a company falls on my naughty or nice list could be a lot of work. I wonder if there is an app for that? Imagine something that gives every store a score based on how they treat their employees, the environment, and their community. Maybe with links to more info if it is available. Too bad I am not a developer. Anyone out there want to take this on? 🙂